Flyers need major changes to win 1st Stanley Cup since 1975
PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Philadelphia Flyers used a 50th anniversary celebration season to remind fans of all the great tough guys, playoff stars, Hall of Famers and championship seasons of the past.
Rookies like Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Jordan Weal flashed enough talent to show the future might not be so bad.
But the present, well, it was another lost season for a franchise that has missed the playoffs three times in the last five years. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jake Voracek and Sean Couturier may have taken their final turn together as part of a core group of veterans expected to at least get the Flyers to the first round of the playoffs. The Flyers, who last reached the Stanley Cup finals in 2010, missed the playoffs once from 1995-2012. The Flyers haven't won a round since 2012 - the last year any of the four major professional Philadelphia franchises won at least one playoff series.
Yes, another gloomy year looms in Philadelphia.
But while the 76ers, Eagles and Phillies have some sort of clear rebuilding plan, the Flyers are stuck trying to eke out a playoff berth with a middling core and a solid crop of rookies.
The Flyers had a 10-game winning streak in a 39-33-10 (88 points) season that left them stuck in 11th place in the Eastern Conference.
''There is a lot of good mixed in,'' coach Dave Hakstol said. ''Growth and development is not easy.''
Dave Hakstol earned a reputation for molding young talent during a successful collegiate stint at North Dakota. Philadelphia reached the postseason last year under Hakstol but was eliminated in the first round by the Washington Capitals. General manager Ron Hextall, who risked his reputation by gambling on the college coach, will likely give Hakstol another season to prove he can lead a bunch of young 20-somethings back into the playoffs - and deep into May. But the question looms, will the veterans remain to help Hakstol right the ship or will there be a major offseason shakeup?
''We like the players in this room, a lot of character, a lot of guys doing the right things and we're not far off, everyone in this room cares for each other and goes out and plays for each other,'' Giroux said. ''That's obviously not my decision, but we'll see what happens.''
The Flyers' Stanley Cup drought is one of the longest in the league - they haven't a championship since back-to-back Cups in 1974 and 1975.
The only thing the franchise has a built over the last 40 years is a loyal, yet frustrated, fan base wondering if the orange-and-black will ever celebrate with a championship parade again through the heart of Philadelphia. The Flyers have been close - real close: Philadelphia lost in the Stanley Cup finals in 1976, 1980, 1985, 1987, 1997 and 2010.
But the last seven seasons have been a major flop.
Want to catch the Flyers on TV the next few weeks? Watch ''The Goldbergs.''
Here are some other things to know about this season's Philadelphia Flyers:
GOING STREAKING: The Flyers won 10 straight over November-December, were a solid 25-11-5 at home and went 7-3-2 down the stretch.
''Some games during the year we had a lot of confidence and were playing our game and doing good things,'' Giroux said. ''If we would have played like that all year we would be more successful than we are right now. But at the same time, I really think we're going in the right direction. We have a lot of good pieces here, but it's definitely frustrating.''
NEW KIDS IN TOWN: Defenseman Ivan Provorov played at least 24 minutes in 19 games this season and finished the season at 21:58 per game, which led the team and set a new Flyers record for TOI by a rookie.
Provorov also becomes the first Flyers rookie to appear in all games during a season longer than 80 games.
Konecny, goalie Anthony Stolarz, Jordan Weal, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg and Mike Vecchione could become key contributors next season.
WHO'S NO. 1: Steve Mason, a free agent, may have played his last game for the Flyers and that could open the door for Stolarz. The 23-year-old Stolaraz had one shutout in four starts and stopped 168 of 181 shots.
Could he start next season?
''Down the road, I think. Of course, I need to get some experience,'' he said.
Hakstol knows the organization thinks enough of Stolarz to give him a fair shot at winning the job in training camp.
''I think it's a small sample size,'' Hakstol said. ''I've seen enough to think that he's really making nice progress. I think that's one that needs to be answered over time.''
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